As a reward for an undergoing investigation along the Central California coast in connection with the shooting deaths of three threatened southern sea otters, $21,000 is being offered to those who help to found out the culprit.
On Sept. 3, 2013, one male sea otter was found dead at Asilomar State Beach in Monterey County. In the same area, two days later other two males were found dead.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced the reward on Friday.
Killing a California or southern sea otter is a crime punishable by federal and state fines and penalties and possible jail time.
“We want to bring things full circle and find the people responsible for this act,” said Charge Rebecca Roca, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resident Agent who is directing the criminal investigation into the shootings.
California sea otters were nearly extinct due to the hunting by fur traders who hunted them for their pelts, and by the early 1900s, a small colony of just 50 survived along the coast of Big Sur.
They were listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1977.
The latest estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center put their population at 2,941.
Biologists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium found the sea otters, and the aquarium is functioning with authorities and other groups to broadcast this information.
“These baseless killings are nothing short of acts of barbarism,” said Kim Delfino, director of California programs for Defenders of Wildlife. “Moreover, shooting endangered species like the southern sea otter is illegal, and the criminals responsible should be punished to the highest extent of the law. Southern sea otters are one of the charismatic species that make our country such a special place, and we must do all that we can to protect and champion these imperiled animals.”
Those with any information should contact Special Agent Souphanya of the US Fish and Wildlife Service at 650-876-9078. An anonymous report can also be made by calling the US Fish and Wildlife contact line at 703-358-1949, or the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CalTIP line at 1-888-DFG-CALTIP.